Vijender Singh’s matchmaker defended the choice of opponents for the boxer and said that the Indian is progressing well on his path to a world title. Mike Altamura, the Melbourne-based matchmaker who has worked with promoters IOS promotions in setting up professional bouts for Vijender, said that the boxer “has improved with each fight.”
“In his early fights, Vijender would fight a lot on the inside. There were areas which we could see needed improvement. But in the last fight (against Ghana’s Ernest Amuzu), he looked sharp. He boxed in and out and used his range well. It was a matter of a couple of punches and the fight would have been stopped,” Altamura told The Indian Express.
The 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Vijender has amassed a 10-0 record and WBO Super Middleweight Asia-Pacific and Oriental titles since turning professional in 2015. However, save for last August fight against China’s Zulipikaer Maimaitiali, Vijender has been matched up with seemingly-inferior opponents and has remained largely untested. Altamura believes the performances are testament to the boxer’s ability.
“He had a tough fight with Zulipikaer. But against Amuzu, he seemed to have corrected a lot of flaws. His trainer Lee Beard is one of the best in the world and they both have been hard at work,” said Altamura. “As for the critique, Vijender is in a tough position in India. If his performance is a bit flat, he gets attacked. If he dominates his opponent, the choice of opponent is attacked. As a matchmaker, I’m happy if I see that he is improving with every fight. He deserves a lot more respect and support from his country.”
No dearth of competition
Over the last couple of years, 76.2kg super middleweight category has turned into one of the hottest divisions in boxing. While Carl Froch’s retirement and Andre Ward’s move up to light heavyweight left the weight class without two of its most recognisable stars, a spate of young talents led by WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez has propped up the division. The 32-year-old Vijender — though No. 6 in the WBO rankings — is low in the pecking order of contenders, even behind Australian Rohan Murdock, with whom he shares his Oriental title.
Murdock, 25, has been touted as the next big thing by legendary promoter Bob Arum and current welterweight champion and compatriot Jeff Horn. Altamura, who manages Murdock, talked about his client’s coming-of-age story.
“Rohan has seen a lot of setbacks because of freak injuries. Last year, in a motorcycle accident in Indonesia, he broke his jaw. He has also broken his hand in a sparring session, both the worst injuries a boxer could have. But last fight (Murdock defeated Russian veteran Apti Ustarkhanov to win the Oriental title) elevated him,” said Altamura. “Rohan is on the path to fighting for the world title in July. We have no delusion that it would be an easy fight.”
Murdock’s world title win would theoretically make it easier for Vijender to get a shot, “because it would be, sort of a double negotiation with myself.” But Altamura says Vijender needs to be ready to step up, and fight more frequently than twice a year.
“The risk-taking should be incremental. For now, we are looking to keep Vijender a little busier and expose him to different styles. With at least three fights this year, he should be ready for the challenge.”
While he lists the likes of Rocky Fielding as probable opponents for Vijender, a possible world title fight between Murdock and Vijender isn’t out of question, provided the money is on the table.
“You never know, it is a strange business. But it is possible if it’s financially worth for both the fighters. After all, boxing, in its simplest meaning, is prizefighting,” Altamura said. “Our end goal with Vijender though has always been to get him in one of the cricket stadiums, and get it packed with people.”